"Seghue della Bottegha dello speciale"

The early fifteenth-century estate of Lionardo di Nicchola Falorni da Pescia is sizable, and its contents are enumerated in an extensive list of real estate holdings, financial assets, and household goods that cover more than thirty folios, front and back. On pages fifteen through seventeen of the dossier, we find that Lionardo was not only a landlord and creditor, but also the proprietor of a spice shop--what we might call an apothecary--and that part of his inventoried estate includes all the herbs, dried plants, medications, pharmaceuticals, unguents, salves, and other mixtures he kept in stock. On the three pages entitled, "what follows is from the spice shop" (seghue della Bottegha dello speciale), we get a glimpse of what Florentines needed from their corner drug store and a backstage look at what was required to keep the business up and running.

Products found in most any pharmacy are also seen on this list: sugar, pepper, wax, distilled water, ammonia, poppy seeds, cashew nuts. Items found more uncommonly in the modern household include arsenic, quicksilver, verdigris, carnation leaves, storax (a fragrant gum resin), ambergris (made in the digestive tract of a sperm whale and used as a fixative for perfumes) and myrobalans, plants used to heal wounds and strengthen the heart; all of these products, and many more, were listed and accounted for in Lionardo’s shop. Items listed on the second and third of these pages also include what are presumably dosage or concentration rates, given by the ounce for each substance. Although many of the items found in the shop are identifiable, some are not, leading to questions about the kinds of cures used by fifteenth-century Florentines, and whether our difficulties in deciphering the list of medications and spices arises from our unfamiliarity with the substances being offered, the ignorance of the notary who recorded what he found, or the exotic nature of what was inventoried.

And as with the Florentine fabric shop also found in Florentine Wards Collection, what remained in the shop informs the reader about the deceased’s business activities, namely what was, kept, used, and necessary for making products to sell and to run the business day by day. Of particular interest are the many tools of the trade: sieves for sifting powders and grindings, special knives or blades for cutting herbs and chopping spices, a bronze mortar and iron pestle for crushing and pulverizing, paddles for stirring, sponges and basins for cooking, combining, cleaning and clearing, chests and containers for storing and safeguarding precious substances and compounds.

Leonardo’s apothecary shop is not the only one found in the DALME records, but the lengthy list of its contents make it valuable for comparison against similar storehouses that appear in the DALME collections.